Movie City Indie Archive for January, 2015

Sundance Seen Part 1

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Three girl ghosts at dusk.

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Infernal. Everyday sight if you get around town, or if you just like sitting in traffic. (Or don’t take a taxi, or don’t like to say, “We’ll Uber it” or “That your Uber,” two of the more common phrases this year.

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Never an empty rack: is no one picking up the Reporter?

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Up the hill on Main Street, wildposting is done in the proper place for Slamdance in front of the Treasure Mountain Inn. (Chicago filmmaker Michael Olenick, left.)

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A promotion at the International Documentary Association’s fete for the fine, compassionate screengrab-of-our-moment doc by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus.

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Don’t ask what happened here. It can’t be unseen.

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning Jonathan Gold, food critic of the Los Angeles Times and subject of Land Of Gold, has a moment with Film Quarterly editor Ruby B. Rich in the Mariott headquarters hallway.

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Breezing past the nineteenth century children’s cemetery.

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And in between movies, slices of the Utah sky.

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Pop-ups everywhere in Park City for the ten days of Sundance. Not all of them connected to Evel Knievel.

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On Main Street, Kevin Smith is smodded by fans outside a popup Tim Horton’s somehow in support of his later-in-the year Yoga Hosers. “I never saw myself making a kid’s movie,” he told me, “but I think it came out kinda good.”

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Trailering Assayas’ CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (2’23”)

In theaters April 10.

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Scorsese Directs De Niro And DiCaprio In Two Casino Commercials (2 x 1’00”)

… with more on the way.

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Best of 2014: A Top 40

BOYHOOD 71. Boyhood, Richard Linklater. Linklater is one of the few filmmakers you’d expect to foresee the fact that he would be shooting a period piece in the present: that is, that each year would be seen from a distance of years, and however the present was characterized, through pop culture and other social artifacts, would accrue into simple nostalgia. But Linklater’s better than that, and the ending, the very ending, is open-ended yet also a summation of what so many of his wanderers have been searching for all their on-screen lives.  Boyhood is perfectly imperfect, and surely not the last exploration of feature filmmaking as the ideal form to encapsulate duration and unities of location to come from the dogged, invaluable fifty-three-year-old writer-director. Time. Time itself. As much as any of Linklater’s movies, Boyhood fits squarely into the exquisite expanses of one of my favorite poems, my fellow Kentuckian Robert Penn Warren’s “Audubon: a vision”:

Tell me a story.

In this century, and moment, of mania,
Tell me a story.

Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.

The name of the story will be Time,
But you must not pronounce its name.

Tell me a story of deep delight.

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2. Gone Girl, David Fincher. The hyperbolic, galvanic, filthy-black-funny Gone Girl is multitudes. And it’s one of the most complexly disturbing movies about grownups fucking up sex in all too long. Sex, no, not sex, really, but power. Who has the fucking upper hand and who has the upper hand fucking? (Oh, the music in Rosamund Pike’s voice when her “Amazing Amy” first beds Nick and says, as he tousles his face upon her lap in an act of assured cunnilingus, “Nick Dunne, I really like you.”) And every bit of it is so readily read into, and not limited to various and sundry accusations of misogyny in the narrative. Gone Girl is unreliable narration atop unreliable narration. A second viewing was nearly as unnerving as the first: there’s three sides to every story, yours mine and the cold, hard truth; Fincher and Flynn have their cake, your cake and eat it too, in meta-meta commentary of the modern moment of media and what none dare call “relationships.”  Cut at a sweetly punishing clip, Gone Girl refracts so many attitudes about the cupidity of human desire and the rapidity of the fall when attempts to fuck up another person fuck you up in turn.

THE IMMIGRANT3. The Immigrant, James Gray. Where Bruno binds Ewa to bed and pulls her to ground, speaking always of cash, Emil climbs in windows through fire escapes, brandishes postcards of the beautiful California seaside (which, cannily, we are not allowed to glimpse) and at one inexplicable moment of implausible, fantasticated beauty, merely levitates. In a world of soot and muck and views warped by crudely annealed, light-bending, feature-distorting window glass, Emil promises life can become lighter than air, where once all that is profaned could become sacred once more. While the locations and panoramas are limited (to effective budgetary and esthetic effect), the ghostly dreaminess of The Immigrant lies in its realization of the state of mind of its characters, each imbued with hope no matter how quickly they become a “soiled dove,” as Bruno coos at Ewa. These are the ones that had a hope that was handed down to generations. And yet we know that when Emil says in one of his performances, “Don’t give up the faith, don’t give up the hope, the American Dream is waiting for you!” it is as much threat as promise, but it is a threat and promise upon which our America, now, is built. It is a brilliant rebuke to the making of myth. Its heart is pure.
Digital Fusion Image Library TIFF File4. The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson. Anderson’s everyman-in-no-man’s-land is Gustave H., the concierge of an ocean liner of a wedding-cake deluxe hotel in the fictional duchy of Zubrowka, The Grand Budapest Hotel. He is a man with a job, if not a surname or a notable nationality. Ralph Fiennes invests H. with the brusque panache of both the boulevardier and the comic lights of the stage. Lubitsch’s blithe cosmopolitanism is supplanted by brute snippiness in the person of Fiennes. Speaking faster than he fast-walks, his H. is given to “oh fuck it”s that are the verbal equal of Indiana Jones choosing to take out a pistol and dispatch a scimitar-wielding opponent. (Fiennes is nourished by H.’s bursts of comic filth.) His impatience, his hurry, accelerates the sense that a narrative, an era, is hurtling to a close, as well as setting the tempo for the heist-and-chase design of this lovely, if bittersweet accomplishment.
LoveIsStrange95. Love Is Strange, Ira Sachs.  Drama seeps in, sensation is suggested. The film’s quietly detailed, lived-in, loved-in feel is both emotionally specific and painterly in its suggestive formal sensations. (Sachs cites the work of American painter Fairfield Porter as a key visual touchstone.) Among his cast, which extends two generations, each figure walks in geometry. Each character has a specific fashion of holding space. Love is Strange is about, yes, love, and about family and about the necessity of generations sharing knowledge and secrets, yet there’s not a line of dialogue that announces this. Love is Strange also bears the acuteness, the precision of the era the characters would have lived through. Buried deep beneath the surfaces, surely there are submerged fragments of Frank O’Hara and his fragrant, antic verse as well as the lore of the painters who frequented and illuminated the interior life of lairs like the Cedar Tavern. The succession of setting and framings are beautiful for their precision and coolness, from strong design rather than a prurient glow.
WeAreTheBest16. We Are The Best!, Lukas Moodysson. What brought Moodysson back to the deliriousness of early movies like Show Me Love (Fucking Åmål)? Love. Love for his wife, Coco. Love for her stories of unstemmable punk girlhood. Punk lives! (and how!).
Ida - 27. Ida, Paweł Pawlikowski. There are surely ample footnotes to be made about photographic influence, but what matters is what has been made from influence: a movie that feels like it is a window looking into the distant past, in a format and fashion akin to its era, but which also feels contemporary, timeless and never anachronistic. It is a movie in its moment, but also of its moment: Pawlikowski, and only Pawlikowski, could only have made it in this moment. Shot to shot, each and every element thrills. While the non-actor Agata Trzebuchowska is superb in indicating near-silent acknowledgment of all that swirls around her, Agneta Kulesza, with superlative presence, is the star of the show in every frame she enters or exits, electric with boundless passion, heedless fury, thwarted hope, vital cynicism passed from cigarette end to cigarette end.
Calvary-2759e5f0-89ac-42e5-a5f7-2578e0e221bf8. Calvary, John Michael McDonough. Calvary is, in a very specific way, a “B” movie, by which I mean, “Bergman, Buñuel and Bresson,” Ireland, day: Man walks into a confession booth and tells a priest of terrible things that had been done to him by a priest when he was small. Tells the priest: I’ll get back at the church by killing an innocent priest in one week, and that’s you, get your life in order. Now there’s a set-up. The second feature by writer-director John Michael McDonagh, fills that week full-to-bursting with a raft of idiosyncratic characters and philosophical conflicts and the current crisis in the Church and idiomatic comic dialogue strung along by the script’s thriller-like ticking clock. Brendan Gleeson’s Father James could very well be his best performance in a great career. (Gleeson told me it’s his favorite role.) Graham Greene divided his books into two classes: the novels, which took on spiritual matters, and the lighter ones, which he called “entertainments.” McDonagh’s knack is to combine both the novelistic, spiritual elements of Greene and lighter notes to achieve a high level of gratifying entertainment.
Winter Sleep 086535-2-©-NURI-BILGE-CEYLAN9. Winter Sleep, Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Ceylan’s usual cinematographer, Gokhan Tiryaki, fixes on landscape in interiors as well as exteriors: he and Ceylan are patient poets of the human face.
Actress Brandy10. Actress, Robert Greene. Life as performance, personality as melodrama, persona as hope. This is the film I’d hoped a filmmaker as intelligent and driven as Robert Greene would make someday, but so soon? His intimate collaboration with his neighbor, actress and mother Brandy Burre is a dazzling singularity, a film to be seen and seen again as much as described to whomever you’re watching it with next.
4_CITIZENFOUR11. Citizenfour, Laura Poitras. Edward Snowden’s loquacity in describing the responsibility of a governed citizenry, as well as the elemental passion he expresses for American ideals, stand in stark contrast to the grandstanding of onscreen politicos and spooks, and elevate what could be merely technical talk about “metadata in aggregate” and how billions of conversations could be (and are) siphoned into the data coffers of the government and its contractors each day to something approaching manifesto. The imperturbable calm of the penetrating filmmaking of Citizenfour holds reservoirs of disappointment, anger and finally, wellsprings of hope.
OVERNIGHTERS12. The Overnighters, Jesse Moss. Rich with hope and rife with despair, going in as many unexpected directions as life can offer. T. Griffin’s score is elemental to the melancholy of Moss’ mosaic of men in need: it’s as layered as the rest of the assured, compassionate, even brilliant filmmaking.
RZ6A6685.CR213. Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch. Superficially a vampire story—and one that portrays the soft rush of ingested blood like the hard rush of injected heroin—Only Lovers Left Alive is also a moving meditation on shifting roles in long-term relationships, on “zombie” culture outside the cluttered, cloistered lair, on the eternal promise and disappointment of youth. Keenly, Only Lovers demonstrates the importance of knowing who, in a couple, will be the one to dream and hold fast while the other might flag and despair. It’s also an impeccably furnished paean to cultivated taste in which its practitioners have had centuries to also develop impeccable self-awareness.

forcemajeure114. Force Majeure, Ruben Östlund. A ticklish mix of Billy Wilder (visual wit and verbal precision are deployed adroitly), Luis Buñuel (the amazing final scene) and Scandinavian modern exactness, Force Majeure thrills for its biting wit as well as its portrayal of how the smallest choice, the most seemingly minor gesture, can be as dramatically calamitous and emotionally revealing as pitched heights of drama.
mrturner115. Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh. Leigh brings a longtime dream to supple fruition: a robust yet understated, unalloyed two-and-half-hour celebration of the boldly imagined, bracingly colored, late work of the great painter J.M.W. Turner, as well as his curmudgeonly disposition, captured by Timothy Spall in classic dudgeon.
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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas